I missed your post the first time around Travoli.
It is all going to depend on what Googles numbers currently are at before they IPO. If Google does more AdWords business than is commonly believed, they might not have to do a thing at all.
As we have seen in the past, there have been hundreds of bait and switch type schemes. Any time you change a service in a major way, it can be viewed that way by users. Many of those that have switch their services have resulted in problems.
Think about all the big free web hosts that did it. They started with no banners, then just a button, then just a small banner, a branding frame, and finally popups everywhere. Most of those free services are gone or dying (GeoCities, Xoom, Tripod). You can even can consider the problems that sites such as Salon had trying to monetize. Unlike those early services, Google can learn from those mistakes.
How much can Google do in the way of changes, and how fast can they do it?
Google is in a strange position. They have branded themselves in spades with pages that are bare bones and to the point. They've been slowly fighting back against limited options branding with the addition of the page tabs and expansion of their company pages.
Little by little, the bare bones look is being eaten away. That gives them some room to play that they didn't have a year ago. I still think it would take awhile to work in graphic banners. The loss of users would be significant as users went elsewhere.
If done in the traditional Overture style, it would destroy everything they built over the last three years. Sergy and Larry would have a hard time sleeping. I don't think that is what Google is about. Not gonna happen.
However, I can see Adwords moving to PPC. As more and more categories fill up with ads, the only resolve is to auction them off. Even just raising the cpm of them now has a limited life span and diminishing returns. You can raise prices to a degree, but when your customers call it quits, they won't come back to see that you lowered them again after the shakeout. The only way to know what the market can bear is to auction them on a cpm or cpc basis. That keeps everyone interested and watching; whereas, static high prices, just drives customers away and they don't return (they write you off).
I think Google PPC based Adwords will happen. It's a great IPO setup. It's almost an inevitability. It gives the advertisers what they want and leaves the listings alone. This is in keeping with what we know of the Google philosophy.
If you have studied the last available Inktomi quarterly report, it is evident that there are many sites willing to shell out serious money to be found in search engines. However, look at how much market share Inktomi gave up to Google in doing so. Just as there has been a movement to Google for search quality reasons, they will move away just as fast. They left the other engines in search of something better. If Google messes to much with the current system for IPO purposes, they'll move to other engines just as fast. Loyalty is fleeting - the internet is a fickle crowd with a short memory. Brand name loyalty is defined as 'what have you done for me today'.
Additionally, I can't see 'preferred spidering' to be a good value with Google. They update regularly and their algo is fairly immune to manipulation.
Much of the value of Inktomi's and Altavista's preferred spidering program is for the manipulation value of the results. Submit a page on Thursday, and tweak it daily until you hit the top spot listings. I can't for see a scenario where you could do that with Google.
Even if you could submit a page, daily to Google like we did with the old Infoseek, there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The current Google system, just doesn't allow that on the per-page basis for very long.
There is the enterprise search segment of the market that has been dominated for several years Inktomi and Altavista search products - software anyway. Now that Excite is a distant memory, there is the potential for corporate search solutions that no one is meeting at the moment.
There just aren't any easy off-the-shelf search solutions that midsize and large businesses can purchase at reasonable expenses. Oracle and IBM both have offerings, but prices begin in the stratosphere and climb from there. Even simple systems to do what our own site search engine does with 12k pages can start at $100,000 for the hardware and software.
The current crop is not only expensive, but it is very technical and tedious. Setting up advanced databases, local networks, and related support personnel is an expensive and complicated endeavor. This is not a task for the traditional point and click crowd. As more and more large companies roll back software and hardware divisions in the wake of commodity pc's and software, the point-and-click crowd is growing while the pocket protector crowd is shrinking in IT departments. They don't want to buy expensive solutions at Oracle that require years of commitment. They want to walk into a Walmart and pick it up off the shelf 24x7. Or, they want a cost effective prepackaged hardware and software solution.
Google is known to run their system on pc based Linux boxes. With web appliances and cheap pc's nothing more than commodities now, Google could put together a hardware and software solution that is cost effective. Why go offsite for search at all? Google has the software and the hardware tech knowhow to pull it off. I think it could be hugely successful if they can do it at the right cost. Some how, I think this will come to pass ;) (grrr, if we could only talk about what we know...Stay tuned, same bat time, same bat channel)
Competition - new threats on the horizon.
While Google currently enjoys the center of search attention, there are serious contenders out there. The surprising powerhouse AskJeeves purchased upstart Teoma last fall. It is clear from most search experts that Teoma has the people in place to produce a top notch engine. While the current Teoma edition is a bit thin on results, they now have the money and backing to address every line-by-line weakness.
AskJeeves has done some serious advertising to acquire market share. They have almost become the defacto 'soccer mom' engine. If the rumor mill is correct that 2002 will see a Teoma powered AskJeeves, this could be trouble for Google. Especially if they change their current system in some significant ways.
There is also Fast/AllTheWeb that continues to grow. AllTheWeb is a bit of an enigma. They've never enjoyed the success I feel they have earned. Maybe it is the Eurocentric nature or just the search results. Either way, they continue to push their tech forward and improve little by little.
As you can see, there is a huge number of factors for Google to consider from the consumer side.
It is going to be an interesting year.